Meet the latest arrival to the family at Knowsley Safari – an endangered white rhino calf!
The yet to be named male calf, was born over the weekend to Mother Meru and Father Shaka. Following a 16 month pregnancy, the birth marks an important step towards boosting global numbers of the critically endangered white rhino species.
The new arrival is Meru’s eighth calf and joins the crash of seven white rhino at Knowsley Safari. At just a few days old, the newborn, and not so little, male could weigh in at a whopping 10 stone and is doing very well.
Jason Doherty, rhino team leader at Knowsley Safari, says: “Within minutes of being born he took his first wobbly steps. He’s a bouncing bundle of joy, who’s been busy exploring his new surroundings.
“It’ll be interesting to see how the dynamic of the crash changes, especially between Meru and her older calf, Nomvula. Typically, in the wild, the birth of a new rhino is an event which signifies the natural separation from previous infants and so it’s likely that Meru won’t tolerate Nomvula getting too close to her newborn baby boy! It’s not all bad though, white rhino are considered a more social species compared with the other four rhino species and Nomvula can interact with the rest of the crash that she has known since birth.
“Conservation of the species is the cornerstone of everything we do at Knowsley, so this new arrival is especially welcome and has been eagerly awaited by the whole team.
“We are ranked as one of the top white rhino breeding groups in Europe due to our consistent and genetically diverse breeding programme. Our latest newborn continues to ensure we proudly maintain this status.”
The white rhino species is critically endangered due to being poached to the brink of extinction for their horns and habitat loss. Knowsley Safari has an extensive endangered species breeding programme and are committed to doing their bit to save the white rhino from extinction. As a result, the newborn is the 12th rhino calf to be born to the programme in the last 10 years.
White rhino are one of the most hunted animals in the world, conservation is critical which is why this new arrival is absolutely vital. According to 2016 figures from Save the Rhino there are only between 19,666 and 21,085 species left. Despite it’s endangered status the southern white rhino has fared much better than it’s northern cousin which was sadly declared extinct in the wild in 2008.
Q & A’s
Q. When will we know the name of the calf?
A. A competition to name the newborn will be launching soon, so keep an eye on our Facebook feed for details.
Q. When will visitors be able to see the calf out on the drive?
A. Possibly spring time as the weather warms up. at the moment it’s too cold outside for a newborn.
Q.How often will the calf nurse and how will he grow?
A. During the first two months, the baby rhino will nurse every 1-1.5hrs for 2 to 5 minutes at a time and can gain on average 4-4.5kg per day in the first fortnight.
Q. Why doesn’t the calf have a horn yet?
A. Adult white rhinos have two horns but the calves are born hornless. The horn consist of compressed strands of keratin (same as our fingernails) that grows from the skin on their nose. The growth of the horn starts from the first week and continues to do so throughout their lives.
Q. Is it warm enough at this time of year for the calf?
A. The rhino house has a central heating system to ensure the rhino remain comfortable throughout the remaining winter months.
Q. How will the crash respond to the the arrival?
A. The mum separates herself and her calf for a time before rejoining the crash. In our crash, there is a number of experienced females that have dealt with new arrivals before so they are bonded enough to all be aware of the newer member. Staff will first introduce mum and calf to the female closest to her, in this case Nomvula, so not to overwhelm the calf when he meets so many new family members at once.
Q. Are there any other births expected within the crash?
A. We are hopeful for further calves but we don’t want to 100% confirm this so our visitors are not disappointed.
Q. How many calves has Meru given birth to?
A. Eight in total
Q. Why will the new arrival help so much with the International White rhino breeding programme?
A. Shaka, our bull, is very important to International White Rhino breeding programme and so far has sired five calves in his 26 years – meaning his bloodline is not over-represented.
Q. How many white rhinos have been born in total at Knowsley Safari?
Q. When was the first white rhino born at Knowsley Safari?
A. 1977 (we opened in 1971)
Q. How extensive is the Knowsley Safari breeding programme?
A. Knowsley Safari is one of the top white rhino breeding groups in Europe (According to the European White Rhino Stud Book).
Q. How are white rhino ranked on the endangered species list?
A. White rhino are on the near endangered list (IUCN redlist) and are facing extinction if the poaching, and trade in rhino horn does not cease.
Q. Could any of Knowsley Safari’s rhino crash end up in the wild?
A. Not at this stage because poaching is still increasing in their natural habitats.
Q. What’s the average size of a white rhino?
A. An average white rhino can grow to 2 tonnes and reach 3.8-5m body length with a shoulder of up to 1.80m. Horn length can reach up to 94-102cm for the primary horn; the secondary horn a maximum of 55cm.